To Skirt-Over-Pants Or Not, That IS The Question

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It's the hottest trend, and everyone is doing it.

They're doing it at CHANEL.  

Man Repeller is doing it. 

MIMU MAXI is doing it.

 a la Modesty is doing it.

But I just can't do it.

It's not because I don't want to. My goodness! Everyone who knows me knows that I dream of sporting sleek leather leggings under a fabulous frock or sweater with some killer heels. And here's a little secret: Recently, when I go shopping, I take some into the fitting room with me... just to try.

Aaah, confessions, they feel so good.

For those who are new here, or may be wondering what the big deal is, this is a modest fashion blog. I am an Orthodox Jewish woman who tries to follow the laws of Jewish modesty, which include wearing skirts to the knee, shirts to the collarbone, and sleeves until the elbow. Oh, and we don't wear pants either. But if a skirt or dress covers a pair of pants specifically made for a woman (until or below the knee), there is technically no halachic problem with this look. And boy, this trend is having its moment.  As I like to say, dressing modestly is about creatively expressing your inner self so people will see and respect you, not your body. So, this look is clearly not an antithesis to this idea. But still...

As Mimi Hecht, designer and owner of MIMU MAXI says, "I'm not going to lie and say it isn't controversial. But personally, I feel it's a style accent that, albeit not the norm in our community, allows us to express ourselves without giving up modest fashion.  We feel it's a gray area we're okay venturing into."

As for me, I'm just not sure.

I'm not sure what's holding me back, but it probably has something to do with the amount of work and willpower it takes to stay stylish within the confines of the modesty rules that I've practiced since my childhood. Maybe I feel like this is cheating and I just won't give in so easily. There is also the matter of the cultural difference of the specific community I live in. (It will be a cold day in hell when I spot a Lakewood mama wearing skinny jeans under her pleated four-inches-below-the-knee skirt. But hey, you never know.)

I'd like to open up the conversation and hear what you have to say about this trend, both from a fashion perspective, and from a modesty/tznius perspective.

So, now that I've shared mine, please tell me your thoughts and opinions.  Leave your comment below, or in the comment section of the social media platform that this link is posted to. I can't wait to hear what you have to say!


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  1. It's interesting that this look is now so trendy in the States, because here in Israel, it was all the rage (in certain segments of the national-religious community) about 5+ years ago.

    In our daughters' schools, the dress codes range from "no pants at all" to "pants are okay but can't stick out below the skirt" to "pants of any length are okay, but the skirt has to be as long as it would be without the pants."

  2. I totally hear how you feel about this. Personally, I love the look and I don't feel weird sporting it. It's probably because I live in a community where most people wear jeans, so I never feel like I'm being judged. Most of my friends, that do live or grew up in communities where most people are wearing skirts, feel that even though they would like to sport the look of jeans underneath skirts, they just can't because many people in their communities will judge them. I grew up wearing pants and decided on my own to take on wearing skirts. Pants underneath a modest skirt, to me at least, is more tznius than most skirts, we see many girls in our fashionable, religious communities wearing. Don't get me wrong, I wear tight clothes and I never judge others for wearing tight clothing. But my only point is, how can people judge others for wearing jeans underneath a skirt? when most of these judgers are wearing clothing that show off how large their chest or butt is. If someone is judging us "jeans underneath skirts wearers" and they don't wear any form fitting clothing, than I get it, they most likely follow the rules of tznua way more strictly than most women we know.. But am I wrong for assuming that this isn't the case and that most of these people are wearing form fitting clothing? I want to just make clear, I am in no way offended by people who do think its weird, again I totally get where people who feel this way are coming from. My only concern I guess is, that people are more worried about what other people are going to think or are thinking when sporting the jeans and I feel that totally goes against who we are as a Jewish people. Seeing 4 inches of jeans under a skirt doesn't make a person less tznuah, in fact it's covering so much more that it's probably more tznius than what we are use to wearing. People need to feel comfortable in what they wear and the truth is, I think a lot of girls that aren't tznius and see me wearing jeans underneath a skirt, think wow I can be tznius and look "normal" and fashionable. I hope I got my point across in a respectful way and I hope I didn't offend anyone! I just think its just a garment, and yes we aren't use to religious women wearing it, but technically is there something really wrong with it? I think people need to just think about what they wear, and decide if it's in any way better than wearing a pair of pants underneath a skirt...

  3. Thank you so much for addressing this. It has really been on my mind as a Chabad woman who likes to be fashionable but is also torn regarding this trend.
    I think it has so much to do with the approach to modesty that exists within a community. In many chareidi or chassidic communities, the attitude is very much about not just following the rules of tznius in the most basic sense, but also dressing differently than the rest of society altogether. For this approach, - and I say this with no judgement whatsoever - the concept of being tznius and into the fashion world is already somewhat of an oxymoron. Therefor any trends adopted by the latest fashions - even if technically acceptable according to halacha - is frowned upon. Of course, there are always fashionable women who manage to work new trends in with their tznius look, but they are usually not as obvious (as adding pants!) to the rest of the community.
    So I think a woman's general hashkafa (and perhaps the community she is a part of) would be the greatest factors to consider when deciding if this trend is "right" for her.

  4. I am a bit torn about this look. In my opinion, it is really not very different than wearing tznius workout clothes of the leggings attached to skirt variety. I think it still works with the customs of tzniut, though I do see how it can be controversial in many communities, as it does push the envelope. But I am sure that modest fashion innovators also pushed the envelope when they started wearing really lush, beautiful sheitels or tighter skirts and super high heels. As with anything related to tzniut, I believe the guiding force should be kavana.

    From a fashion perspective...I'm not so sure. As a plus size woman and fashion blogger I can see this look being really tough to pull off--I don't know that I need extra layers under my pencil skirts and especially under my more voluminous skirts, though I think a pair of leather leggings might provide interesting juxtaposition without adding bulk.

    @rachelleyade does this often and flawlessly, as does @frumeetaubenfeld.

  5. I don't wear pants. I haven't worn a pair of pants, or jeans, since I gave them up in high school. I love skirts, I love how they look great on any body, plus they are just fun and feminine. That being said, with the exception of a la modestys look above, I don't care for the look of pants under a dress or skirt. I may be hypocritical here, but I think there is a cast difference between pants and leggings. I do love wearing form fitting leggings under a skirt or a dress. I can add a pop of color or print in a snap with leggings. This is my opinion.

  6. Thank you for upholding your convictions! I am with you on this look. It is not common in my neighborhood either. Many Jewish bloggers call themselves modest, but then they break every rule of modesty showing knees, elbows and necklines. I mean, who are they kidding here? You are the real deal! I thank you for that. You are a modesty role model more than ever!!!

  7. No, just NO. It's not a flattering look for anyone. Sleek leggings with boots are cute under a skirt, but anything that is obviously "pants" just adds bulk and breaks up the line of your outfit.

    Another problem I can see is that women can be tempted to have their hemlines go higher and higher, because "Hey, knees are covered!"

    I do own jeans, but I only wear them under my skirt when I am doing yard work or hiking.

  8. ...I don't get the kashe. Those pictures are rather ridiculous. Seriously. Just wear a skirt...

  9. I really liked what chana said."the concept of being tznius and into the fashion world is already somewhat of an oxymoron". The value and beauty of Jewish women is we look/dress differently than the rest of society. We are not supposed to try to blend in. I don't see the benefit of trying so so hard to copy everything the fashion world does. I love that Sharon just tries to look beautiful and modest without trying to do everything just because its in fashion right now.

  10. I think in tzniut there will be always a solution for every woman and style but I really don't like leather clothes ;-)

    For me, tzniut is just a conscious way to dress and "help" everybody to stay more concentrate in your personality than your body. So... about these leather pants... if it cover your knee, is confortable and make you smile, why not to dress it?

  11. Well, I'm not of any religion but I think it looks stupid. Simplicity is always the most elegant and this looks like pandemonium. I don't call this style. I call it adolescence.

  12. One halachic concern with pants is the concept of beged ish/isha - i.e. the prohibition of men and women wearing the other gender's clothing, even if the specific article of clothing is specifically designed for the non-dominant gender. (Men's wedding bands come to mind as well.) Whether or not this applies to pants nowadays is subject to a debate, but I could imagine that many women would shy away from wearing pants due to these concerns, even if the modesty issues were solved by placing a loose-fitting skirt on top.

  13. I think it's fine in terms of tsnius but so often I see frum women doing this with skirts or dresses that actually don't otherwise adhere to the laws of modesty. The Mimu dresses aren't long enough on taller women and they end up just looking like tunics over jeans, not dresses over jeans.

  14. thank you for addressing this trend and sharing your opinion. i agree with you, i fathom buying a pair of jeans. it's one thing to wearing leggings (even leather) but pant pants seem different.

  15. My humble opinion is that any fashion that is cutting edge is questionable. Wearing the very latest trend is a statement and the point of tzanua clothing is not to let your clothes or physical appearance in general do the talking.

  16. What a debate you've started!

  17. Love the post Sharon, thank you for including me; it seems to be a topic that is quite controversial. To address the people who feel that leggings are acceptable, yet a more loose and pant-like silhouette is deplorable: I am not sure where this distinction is coming from, but I would love to hear why so many feel one is more tznius than the other. If it is simply a feeling, then it is a personal preference that should not be employed to condemn others. If you are questioning the true issue, which is modesty, then I suggest you consult with your local Orthodox Rabbi. There are also many who seem to feel that 'Fashion' in and of itself is against the grain of yiddishkeit, and so I have to wonder what their reason for visiting a fashion blog is. In terms of style and aesthetic, there are many trends that come and go, and some are more understandable and mainstream than others. Some people have fashion blogs for that exact reason; we have the ability and desire to flit between the trends and embrace the styles of today, by incorporating them in a way we feel suits our lifestyle and passion for getting dressed. Sometimes Fashion is about more than just a shell and pencil skirt, and the shape of our outfits can reflect a more contemporary and idiosyncratic form. On that note, I personally do not wear denim in particular under my clothing, as per my own personal experience and choice. That being said, I love the look and I fully support my fellow frum fashion affiliates who don it, such as the MIMU girls and The Frock Swap sisters, among others.

  18. Hi! I am a long time reader, first time poster.
    I have to say, regarding the fashion look of this, that it is not a new look to me nor anyone in my family. My mom, in the 70s, used to wear dresses over bell bottoms all the time (yes, bell bottoms, haha!) and I see it more in the western usa, not sure about the northeast, than anywhere else. This style goes in and out constantly. Mostly, it's just easier, being in warmer areas, to wear a longer/longish dress and still have the freedom to move about (hence the pants) when doing outdoorsy things or things with kids. I love it and I'm always so tickled to see fashion going in circles and something seeming 'new' all of a sudden, just like life does time and time again - there is nothing new under the sun.

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  20. It is weird for some people to see skirt over pants but i think trends start like this and hopefully will try soon the feelings while wearing pant over skirt and will also see how other looks at me.

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